For ten years, our church has partnered with Youth for Christ, a national para-church ministry, to operate The Cellar, an after-school ministry of presence for high school kids downtown. The Cellar is known among students, school administrators, and civic leaders as a safe place for kids to hang out after school. The Cellar is led by April Gratton, our mission partner from Youth for Christ, and Katie Peffer, our Minister of Youth and Families. Two weeks ago, April and Katie took five students on a weekend retreat to our church’s camp in the Laurel Highlands. It was the first time the students had been to the woods, the first time they’d been to a Christian camp, the first time they’d climbed a rock wall, and the first time they’d heard the story of the Gospel.

April and Katie came back from the weekend overjoyed. The students all said that the story April and Katie had shared with them was “valid.”

If you’re disappointed that all five students did not “give their lives to Jesus Christ,” consider the world these girls were raised in. They’re unchurched kids of unchurched parents. They were brought up in a culture which preaches that the highest good is what makes you feel good right now. And they were taught that all belief systems and life experiences are equally valid.

Which happened to be the opening that April and Katie needed.

April and Katie had built a trusting relationship over a long time, which allowed them to share their own Christ-centered life experiences. If “all life experiences are equally valid,” then that must include the experiences of April and Katie, right?

Everywhere, congregations are aging because young people are dropping out. The majority of children of long-time church attenders are dropping out. The implications for the church are enormous.

The church of the future may look a lot more like the church of the first century. The early church did not grow through programs or mass conversions. It grew through personal relationships. It grew because lives transformed by the Gospel are attractive.

The church of the future may look a lot more like what happens weekday afternoons in our church basement, or what happened between April and Katie and those five high school kids.

Lives transformed by the Gospel are attractive.

And valid.

PS. If you are concerned about young people abandoning the faith, here’s a suggestion. Lead a valid life and build an unconditional relationship with a young person.

Hint. April and Katie need volunteers.